I have nothing against Roger Clemens. Absolutely nothing at all. As a Houstonian, I admire and respect his skill as a baseball player, and I can’t think of a more mesmerizing season (maybe aside from the ’94 and ’95 Rockets seasons) than that 2005 Astros campaign. The last time the Astros were relevant, Clemens was playing a vital role and was arguably the face of the franchise. So what I’m about to say is really reflective upon the Houston media and coverage of Clemens since his comeback to baseball, and how it has gone gaga and completely undermined its professional responsibilities to hometown hero Clemens.
Last week, Clemens announced he will sign with the independent club Sugar Land Skeeters to pitch this Saturday. It sort of came from out of nowhere, and there is no doubt “The Rocket” is riding high on good graces, mowing down the feds recently after walking out of a courtroom free, another victory in his books after he was acquitted on all charges that he lied to Congress when he denied using PEDs. Despite the fact that he was one of the centerpieces of the Mitchell Report that came out late last decade, the bottom line is the bottom line. Clemens is not a cheater, at least not by the law, and he got his day in court and won. Good for him.
(By the way, if you honestly still believe Clemens never once dabbled in PEDs, well, uh, good luck with that).
I have no problem with Clemens wanting to play baseball again. That’s his right; that’s what’s so great about America. We can do as we please; the opportunities are limitless. It’s up to us whether or not we choose to take advantage of what’s placed before us. What I do have an issue with is the plethora of ungodly media attention provided by Houston “journalists.” Ever since Clemens announced he was bound for Sugar Land, everyone has seemingly dropped what they were doing to hang onto his every word, to watch his every move. We’re talking about a 50-year-old man who last pitched in the majors five years ago and clearly has no future in the game, at least on the field. Really? This is the big story right after the Astros made significant coaching changes and the Texans are weeks away from kicking off what many hope to be a run to the Super Bowl?
Quick trivia question: What was the centerpiece of today’s Houston Chronicle sports page? Was it, A) Feature/news story on the Texans and their plethora of storylines this preseason; B) an advance on the Dynamo’s Champions League opener tonight; or C) gamer on Clemens’ Over-50 men’s softball game he participated in Wednesday night. Take a good guess.
If you guessed C, kudos! Congratulations on having a grasp on the madness that’s been birthed. For the people who say journalism today is a complete joke, well, there’s their ammo. Tough to argue with them on that one, and it’s doubly annoying when national media like the AP is scoffing at this whole scenario to begin with, but of course the guy’s hometown paper is drinking every sip of the kool-aid. Unbelievable, though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Houston has never really been home to hard-hitting sports journalists who don’t cater to the city’s big stars. Journalists in Houston have biases and allegiances. That’s just the way it’s been, and they’re far from the only ones who are that way, but, whatever. It’s still discouraging.
Here’s another question: why is Jose Canseco laughed at for his ventures into minor league ball and Clemens is applauded? I am far from a Canseco apologist, but whatever you want to say about his buffoonery, he opened eyes in baseball with his book. And he was right: juicing was very much a problem back then, and apparently still very much is now. So why is he some abomination and Clemens is adored as soon as he announces he wants to play baseball at the indy league level? And why are people looking down upon Canseco’s chosen Indy ball venues like Laredo and Worcester and yet Sugar Land is hailed as some king of the minors. Indy ball is indy ball. It’s the minorest of the minors. That’s right. I said “minorest.” That’s how perplexed I am. It doesn’t make sense. It’s unfair. It’s hypocritical. It’s two-faced. In this certain case – a former stud Major Leaguer who has been linked to PEDs looks to stay in the game at any level and even flees to play indy ball – Jose Canseco should be treated no differently than Roger Clemens. It’s just not right. Clemens, at least to me, has made Canseco look almost like a sympathetic figure. Almost. Maybe. OK, perhaps not, but it’s close. It’s made me think twice, that’s for sure.
You have every right to argue that, “Dennis, well, it’s not only Houston media that thinks this is a big deal. CNN, ESPN … they all do too.” And I get that. CNN, I don’t understand at all. Whatever. ESPN will broadcast Clemens’ start on ESPN Classic on Saturday, but is that really a big deal? I don’t think so. This is an entity that glorifies little league baseball, so it doesn’t surprise me one bit that it would broadcast Clemens’ start for an obscure indy ball team in Houston. What else better is there to broadcast on ESPN Classic on a random Saturday afternoon anyway? Look, I get that there is an interest in this. But there is no need to hail Clemens’ every move, to thirst over his every word. There are much bigger fish to fry. Much bigger. And I have a big hunch that the whole Clemens return is a bigger deal to Houston media than its actual audience and readership. You’re telling me that readers would really care about how Clemens fared in a senior softball game than if Trendon Holliday is going to make the Texans’ roster or how the Dynamo might look against Champions League competition? I have my doubts.